He got to go for a ride in the car, in his cat carrier once a year. Yet every single time he saw his little cat house he raced into it like a happy little pup. "Where are we going? Where are we going??" seemed to be written in his eyes.
Year after year. After at least fourteen years of trips to the vet, he still had that puppy dog fascination whenever he saw that carrier appear in the kitchen.
There was the emergency trip to the vet after he wrestled with a muskrat. We are sort of making that story up, yet assuming it actually happened, because he had cornered a muskrat by our neighbor's garage the day before. Though he came home from that particular incident unscathed, a day or two later he wandered home, looking a little worse for wear.
The last few years, he has seen our friendly, neighborhood vet more than a few times a year. Yet he still hopped into that cat carrier just like every other time before.
I think, over the course of time, he understood that a trip to the vet meant healing. Almost every time we went with an ailment, we came out with a way to help him feel better.
I like to think he understood that yesterday would be more of what he had come to know. He "knew" they could help him.
When I took him to the vet only three days prior, he was a model patient. He let down his guard and showed our vet all of his symptoms without pretense. I think he has been trying to be strong for his family but it was as if he "knew" his doctor could only help him if he showed her the truth.
He was at his worst for that short office visit. We got home and he was right back to our strong, brave cat.
It all went downhill from there.
Yesterday afternoon, in the hour(s) before his final appointment with our vet, I sat beside him as he rested quietly upon his cushions which my son had placed on "Andre's" chair. I watched and listened to him breathe. We made eye contact. We gazed into each other's eyes and spoke volumes without saying a word.
He barely even tried to purr, though there was a brief moment ...
It was time to get him ready to go.
I picked him up, ever so gently and carried him to his food and water dishes. "Do you want a drink? Anything to eat?"
His body language was very abrupt. I understood. "No"
I directed him over to the litter box. I wanted to ensure he was as comfortable as possible before we left. He desperately "needed a litter box" when we saw the vet on Wednesday. I wasn't going to repeat that mistake.
He needed a moment of privacy as he took me up on my second offer.
My son brought him and "his cushions" upstairs. He created a cozy little bed for Andre as he arranged the cushions inside of the pet carrier. He showed it to Andre. Andre turned around as if to say "No, but thanks" and wandered over to his food dish.
We sat and watched him eat. It did our hearts good to see him enjoying his food so much. It was so little but it was so big.
We let him eat as long as he wanted to eat. It wasn't long.
He still wasn't too keen on entering the cat carrier but with the help of a few Temptation treats, he gladly found his way into his cozy little oasis.
Once he settled in, he was completely at peace.
We arrived at the vet's office exactly at the time our appointment was arranged. There are some appointments where you do NOT want to arrive early. This was one of them.
He didn't want to come out of his carrier. So we took the lid off. He just laid on his cozy, familiar cushions in the bottom part of his cat carrier and he looked and sounded better than he had in a month. Maybe two.
He let me pet him. Over and over and over. He was so relaxed and at ease.
His breathing was easy. So easy.
What did he know? Did he understand we were there to help him through this final hour? Did the antibiotics kick in at that precise moment?
I asked if we could talk with the vet and she was happy to spend as much time as we needed. She answered all of my questions and concerns. I asked her if she could listen to his breathing again. Were we making a mistake??
It was the hardest decision in the world.
She explained that death due to respiratory illness is very distressing. It is not (usually) a quiet, falling asleep and not waking up kind of death. They struggle for breath and it is very hard for all concerned.
We had no idea if he was two hours, two days or two weeks from that moment. No one could know. No one but Andre knew exactly how he was feeling in that moment.
But the downward spiral he had been on this past week was indicative that his time was so very, very close.
We could choose to help him through this in a quiet, controlled and calm setting like the one we were sitting in right at that moment or we could take him back home with us and hope for another week.
The mere idea of having a medical emergency with him in the middle of a workday at home, with no way to get him help immediately was the deciding factor for me.
He was so absolutely calm.
He didn't even try and purr. He just breathed deeply and quietly and with his whole body. He was so peaceful.
I think he understood he was exactly where he needed to be.
He "crossed over" without pain or any outward sign of anything but a complete and total acceptance and aura of peace.
It is the way I want to go.
Quickly, painlessly, without a struggle and surrounded in love with the whisper of "It's going to be okay" gently easing one out of a sick and tired body.
It's going to be okay, Andre.
We are heartbroken. There will be a void in this family only you could fill. Thank you for giving us fifteen good cat years.
Thank you for choosing us.
In Memory of Andre
He was dropped into our life when we least expected him,
He made a huge imprint within our hearts,
He shared his love with every critter he met,
And we count ourselves lucky
to be his Chosen Family
January (or February), 2000 - April 11, 2015
Good bye, our friend
May you breathe easy now ...